Sustaining vision through action – the time is now 

By Laura MacKay

Whistler2020’s ongoing vision-to-action process is led by community-based experts and caring citizens on 17 task forces who continue to recommend insightful actions which respond to challenging questions. Questions like, how do we continue to foster a sense of place and promote well-being for the people that live, work and play here? How do we ensure that Whistler residents are continuously engaged in the shared journey toward sustainability?

These questions and others have prompted an innovative process leap. While the Whistler2020 process has been hosted by the municipality, it has also, from the beginning, been jointly managed with partners throughout the community — businesses and organizations, as well as individual citizens. Responding in part to the recommendations of eight separate task forces, the opportunity to deepen partner involvement is now emerging in the Whistler Centre for Sustainability, an enterprising non-profit created with seed funding from the Resort Municipality of Whistler. The vision of the Centre is to accelerate the journey toward a sustainable future within Whistler and beyond. Focusing on sustainability for communities, tourism and events, the Centre will deliver consulting built on proven strategic planning services and operational solutions. In time, it will become a centre of excellence for sustainability in Whistler and beyond.

The Board of Directors of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability held their inaugural meeting June 30, the day before the Canada Day holiday. This dynamic and committed group established their internal structure and turned to their first items of business. The meeting room was filled with the energy of a long-awaited moment coming to fruition.

One of the first tasks for the Board was the recruitment of an Executive Director, a process that brought Cheeying Ho, Executive Director of Smart Growth B.C. to the position. She brings an extraordinary amount of capacity and proven sustainability connections to our community. The establishment of program areas is also of primary importance, building service offerings that leverage core community expertise in community sustainability planning, as well as co-creating programs designed to expand opportunity for integrated sustainability planning throughout Whistler’s responsible tourism and events sectors. A recent meeting of over 20 event planners demonstrated consolidated support for deepening a commitment to event-oriented sustainability actions and tools.

The Centre will leverage international exposure as the Host Mountain Resort for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Familiarizing broadcast and media organizations with Whistler’s community-wide commitment to sustainability will ensure that our unique stories emerge through the lens of world attention in 2010. This invaluable coverage will reach and attract new visitors aligned with the growing responsible tourism market, visitors that support and contribute to Whistler’s journey toward a sustainable future.

As mass consciousness shifts toward sustainability, and so many people worldwide are going green , the Whistler Centre for Sustainability is well-positioned to emerge as a thought leader, credibly navigating the blooming greenwash in the marketplace. It’s an incredible time for a group of committed citizens and organizations to collaboratively offer what they have learned and also learn from other networks. As the Centre becomes a hub in the journey toward a sustainable future, other communities are watching as we field-test a new model of collaborative leadership.

On a personal level, Tourism Whistler’s “ whistler energy. plug in” campaign successfully caught my eye and imagination. In my mind it could refer to our resort community’s renewable energy for engaging champions along a journey toward sustainability locally, regionally, and beyond. Whether or not I am right about the intention of the campaign, I continue to be inspired by the conversations about renewable, sustainable engagement along Whistler’s bike paths and hiking trails.

The time is now. As the Centre emerges as a focal point for continued community engagement along the journey toward sustainability, you are invited to contribute your thoughts and participation to shape the Centre’s future.


Laura MacKay works with the Resort Municipality of Whistler as the Whistler2020 Manager of Community Initiatives. For more information about the Centre, visit



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